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Have you seen your profession change in the four years you’ve been in it? “I’ve seen — I can’t even count the number of — outstanding teachers that are veteran teachers that have said, ‘The heck with this. This is not why I got into this.’ They have literally been harassed out of the profession.” By whom? “By administrators, by the district. Administrators were instructed, and all of them have in their office a copy of a book — I don’t know the exact name of it, but I believe it’s something to the effect of On the Edge — and it’s written for corporate executives, and the premise of the book is that you should fire two or three people a year to keep everybody else on edge. And that’s what the district did. There was a principal at Roosevelt several years ago that had a heart attack, that was stressed from all this. I don’t think the district understands the difference between fear and respect. People are afraid, but they don’t respect the district.”

What do you think of Superintendent Bersin? “Honestly, I think it is ludicrous that he is in this profession at all. Even more so, Gray Davis has placed him on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Here’s a man who’s never taught a day in his life who’s determining the standards by which we become teachers? It’s a joke. In my opinion, we are stepping stones for him to the governor’s mansion or the White House.”

What do you think of the Blueprint for Student Success? “Well, my school is specifically exempted from the Blueprint, even though we have the lowest test scores in the entire county. So we don’t get the 20-to-1 and 15-to-1 class size that the other focus schools get.” Why are you exempt? “That I don’t know, and I have been trying to find that out. The school I teach at is in Clairemont, but the kids are bused in from Sherman, Logan, Kennedy, King, Brooklyn, Perkins, pretty much the Southeastern barrio schools. They’re bused into Clairemont, you know, 15 or 20 miles away from their parents. They’re there for one year, so there’s no buy-in. So I’ve seen kids grow to hate reading and hate coming to school. And teachers, you know, learn to hate it. The first years of the Blueprint, there was no real plan. There were all these consultants and nobody really knew what they were doing. They kind of made it up as they went along. We’d say, ‘What do you mean by “shared reading”?’ and the people that the district had trained could not tell me. They just kept saying, ‘Go deep, go deep.’ Well, please explain what you mean by ‘go deep.’ I think it’s a joke. If I had listened to the district as much as they would have liked me to, I would have been much less of a teacher. So it’s almost as if one has to feel guilty about properly teaching, but you have to be sneaky about doing it.”

How many days were you out last year for professional development, in-service training? “Oh, gosh, days total? I’d say at least 10 to 15.” Were they helpful? “Not at all. They were redundant, and they were substandard. This woman, Catherine Casey, who is the district’s reading guru — I think this woman’s a joke. I went to one training with her, and I’ll never go to another one. She came with Tony Alvarado from New York.”

How many are in your class? “Right now I have 29.” What’s the projection for next year? “Well, see, MacDowell is closing, which I think is a very good idea, because to me my school is nothing but bused racism. My kids come from south of I-8 but the school is north of I-8, and we don’t have the resources the other kids north of I-8 have. And in fact, the schools they come from have far better resources than MacDowell. We are kind of like a dumping zone. A lot of times we get misbehavior problems from other schools. A lot of issues with gangs, with students fighting. Sexual assaults. I had a boy this year — 12-year-old boy — masturbate on the bus and wipe it on the girls when he finished. To me, that’s sexual assault. This happens all the time. We’ve had boys expose themselves to the girls, on a more frequent basis than I would imagine is even possible. That’s the sort of thing I want to get through to my boys: ‘Look, this girl is not your sexual object, and if she says no that means no, and you whipping it out and playing with it and when you’re finished with it wiping it on her, that’s assault.’ Honestly, if I had a daughter and a boy did that to her, we wouldn’t have to deal with contacting the police, or, for that matter, use the ambulance. Just call the coroner. I’m serious. If some of the parents knew what was going on in the schools, the way their sons and daughters are being treated, it’s just horrible.”

How about your relationship with your principal? How would you describe it? “In no way collaborative. As union representative, I requested at the beginning of the year that we sit down together once a month, whether everything is going smoothly or not, just to sit down and say, ‘What needs to be addressed?’ and she didn’t think that was necessary. I spoke to Chris Moran from the Union-Tribune about a boycott at my school — the parents boycotted it because they didn’t feel the kids were safe — and I was written up for that, for contacting the media. So now I’m very, very cautious. Not answering my phone during school hours or anything like that. I guess we cordially despise one another. I respect her position, but as far as her performance, it’s very difficult to follow someone you don’t believe. And I’ve most definitely been harassed for using my First Amendment rights — whether it’s speaking to parents, or speaking to the media, or speaking to other teachers, or speaking to the kids.”

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